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    FRENCH REVOLUTION &A TALE OF TWO CITIES

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    FRENCH REVOLUTION &A TALE OF TWO CITIES

    مُساهمة  Mr. Mag في الثلاثاء أكتوبر 12, 2010 7:45 am

    FRENCH REVOLUTION
    AND
    A TALE OF TWO CITIES
    When Louis XVI became King of France in 1775, he inherited a country with economic distress, social unrest, a debauched court, and problems with the nobility and parliament (the courts of justice). The inheritance was fatal. At the time, the aristocracy was living on borrowed money and the labors of the lower classes. The middle class was becoming wealthy from its trade, manufacturing, banking, and contracting. The lower middle class consisted of tradesmen and laborers, with a few government officials.
    The king, only twenty, was inexperienced and easily influenced, and he soon tired of his country's problems. He was a shy man who was often indecisive and narrow-minded; he usually depended on his ministers for advice but frequently would reverse their decisions and decide matters for himself, simply because he wanted to show his authority. He sincerely believed that he ruled by the will of God, by the Divine Right of Kings.
    The court was in debt and in dire need of money because of years of royal extravagance, financial deficits, and two wars. In order to cope with these problems, Louis reinstated the parliaments, which were made up of aristocrats; he hoped that they could solve his problems. Although the lower classes were suffering, the magistrates in the parliaments believed that reforms to help the lower classes were unnecessary. They thought that the lower classes needed no social reforms and that such people were born to bear the burdens of taxation. In contrast, members of the nobility, because of their birth into the upper class, or Second Estate, were exempt from any taxation. Not surprisingly, therefore, the parliaments passed numerous laws favoring the aristocracy.
    The parliaments next asked Louis to return French rule to the Estates-General (a body that had not met since 1614), and eventually Louis gave in. Three legal status groups, or Estates, comprised the Estates-General — called simply, the First, Second, and Third Estates. In the First Estate were the clergy, usually the younger sons of the nobility. The Second Estate comprised the nobility, while the Third Estate included members of the working classes, plus some well-to-do merchants and professional men such as lawyers, doctors, and members of the minor clergy. Under the rule of the Estates-General, only the nobility could hold public office, high ranks in the military, important posts in the government, or sit in parliaments.
    The commoners of France, overjoyed when Louis established the Estates-General, soon became disappointed. Initially, they thought that they would have their "own" Estate and, thus, a voice in government policy-making They quickly realized, however, that they possessed no real power. Organizing the new Estates-General on the same principle of the 1614 concept meant one vote for each member of the Estates. Thus, the clergy and the aristocracy could easily out-vote the Third Estate, two to one, which they did repeatedly.
    Political problems increased, and food riots broke out due to food shortages. Rainstorms and hail ruined the crops of 1788, leaving people hungry. Paris, in particular, was a crowded, densely populated city of poor people. The masses had no jobs and no money. They began burning and looting the countryside, and even common soldiers began talking against their aristocratic officers. Political pamphlets aggravated the situation by demanding that the Third Estate have a stronger voice in the government.
    By the middle of June 1788, poor parish priests who belonged to the First Estate began to desert their political base and join the Third Estate. As a result, the Third Estate recognized that it was the only Estate elected by "the people." They declared themselves "the National Assembly," and immediately banned taxes.
    This declaration placed Louis in an uncomfortable and difficult position. Recognizing the legitimacy of the National Assembly would mean surrendering his power, but not recognizing it might drive the Third Estate to even greater rebellion. Unfortunately, he chose to listen to Jacques Necker, his Minister of Finance, and to his queen, Marie Antoinette, and decided to oppose the National Assembly. He closed the chambers where the Assembly was to convene, but the Assembly immediately moved to an indoor tennis court. Despite the confusion, the Assembly took an oath not to disband until they had a constitution, and they openly defied the king. They would have a constitution.
    Three days later, Louis vetoed the legitimacy of the National Assembly and ordered the Estates-General to return to their traditional system or he would dismiss them. When he left, the Second and most of the First Estate followed him out. The Third Estate remained, and one of them, Mirabeau, shouted that the Third Estate would leave the assembly hall "only at the point of a bayonet!" Louis could not bring himself to use force against the Estate because so many clergymen and liberal noblemen had joined them. In a dramatic move, they defied the King and won. The Revolution had begun.
    Paris, always a hotbed of dissension, had a large populace ready to fight against almost anything. In every corner, people seemed to meet and conspire; everywhere, people talked of revolution. Hunger haunted the city, and bread shortages constantly loomed over the population. Thieves often stole grain shipped into the city before it even arrived, and in the early summer of 1789, bread riots broke out.
    Because the thousands of workers' salaries could not possibly keep pace with soaring prices, workers began wrecking factories and burning property. At this point, the Swiss Guard marched into Paris in early July. Rumors immediately spread that the aristocrats were going to try to stop the Revolution by armed force. In fact, however, Louis simply stationed the Swiss Guard where he did because the French Guard refused to fight against their own countrymen.
    Four days before the Bastille fell; Louis dismissed Necker and the rest of his cabinet and appointed a new council of anti-revolutionary royalists. Almost immediately, rumors arose that the Swiss Guard and the German Guard were preparing to murder the Parisian populace. Even the French Guard believed the rumors. They joined the rioting masses and broke into the Toiletries Palace, taking gunpowder, ornamental guns, and cannon. Rioting and looting continued, destroying small shops and government buildings.
    On July 14, a mob of citizens seized 30,000 muskets from the Invalids and attacked the Bastille, where the French government kept the royal store of gunpowder. They hung and butchered the governor and his guards and released the few prisoners. Strangely enough, the mob still had sympathetic feelings for Louis; they had lost all respect for him as a king, but still felt affection for him.
    In fact, the common people didn't fear Louis as much as they feared the cluster of noblemen surrounding him. Paranoia about royalist schemes to quash the Revolution overtook them, and so they looted and burned chateaus throughout the countryside. The people slaughtered landlords simply because they were landlords. Consequently, aristocrats began leaving France in droves; the country was no longer safe for anyone but a ragged revolutionary. These uprisings and the general climate were part and parcel of the "Great Fear."
    On August 4, the National Assembly passed a measure invalidating all feudal rights of the aristocracy. The Assembly decided to divide France into 83 departments, giving considerable freedom to all the departments. Then they passed a law that, ironically, caused an even greater schism between the classes. The new law stated that anyone could vote — if they had paid their taxes. The peasants felt betrayed; they had no money to pay taxes. The aristocracy had already taxed them to death, and the Revolution was doing nothing for them.
    The Assembly also suspended Louis from power until he signed the new constitution and accepted his role as only a "constitutional monarch." Robespierre denounced him, and the sans-culottes — a revolutionary group of small businessmen, laborers, and artisans, as well as the very poor — demanded his removal. In addition, they called for a Republic.
    The new government began issuing paper money as legal tender because it associated gold with aristocrats and the wealthy. Exiled nobles, therefore, flooded France with forged paper money, adding to the already deflated money value. Food prices continued to rise, and even two years of good harvests failed to alleviate the peasants' hunger. Mobs began raiding and robbing supply convoys. Soap was in short supply, and sugar was disappearing. Food riots began again.
    Eventually, the National Assembly deposed Louis, put him and his family under arrest, and sent him to prison in the Knights Templar's temple on August 13, 1792. The Assembly guillotined Louis on January 21, 1793. In August, the Assembly sent the queen to prison. It tried her in October and guillotined her on October 16, 1793.
    Robespierre then took control of the Revolution and the "Reign of Terror" began. He championed "the people's rights," but could not understand why the masses ranked food and better wages as more important than dedication to the principles of a free France. He saw conspirators and plotters everywhere, and anyone disagreeing with him became a traitor. He convinced his colleagues that the preservation of a safe society required force and terror. As a result, the new government executed hundreds at Marseilles and Toulon and drowned nearly two thousand in the Loire River at Nantes. The Revolutionary Tribunal was subdivided into four courts, which sat day and night. By September, the Law of Suspects had created so many accused people that the court tried cases in groups of fifty. Courts tried everyone: priests, hoarders, swindlers, aristocrats, and, of course, innocent men and women. Neighbor turned in neighbor. In all, the Tribunal killed more than twenty-five thousand people during the Reign of Terror.
    The sans-culottes closed all the churches in Paris and even took over Notre-Dame cathedral and made it an atheistic "Temple of Reason." This decision upset Robespierre, but his followers equally disapproved of Robespierre's police bureau. They plotted Robespierre's downfall and eventually accused him — just as he had accused others — and sent him to the guillotine. After Robespierre's death, France moved into a period called the Thermidorian reaction, a relatively quiet period. The new government, called the Directory, was inefficient and corrupt, but provided a relatively stable regime nevertheless. Unfortunately, the new government put Napoleon Bonaparte in charge of its army. Unwittingly, it replaced the country's terrorists with someone who would soon become its virtual dictator.

      الوقت/التاريخ الآن هو الإثنين ديسمبر 05, 2016 4:20 am